How to Avoid Domain Name Scams
As a brand owner you probably know that a strong domain name helps you create a successful web presence and adds credibility to your business.
Unfortunately, domain name scams are an ongoing concern and can be difficult to detect as fake notices can often appear to be legitimate.
Commonly also known as domain name squatters or cyber trolls, scammers will often send fraudulent correspondence and invoices directly to a trade mark owner, bypassing their trade mark attorney entirely.
How the scams work
Scenario 1: you have received an email stating that someone else is trying to register your trade mark as their domain name.
Scenario 2: you are sent an email from someone who claims to have registered your company name as a domain name and offers to sell it to you.
These unscrupulous third parties may have no intention of using the domain name. They typically do a search Whois.com or the Trade Marks Register to obtain your information and their main goal is to profit from it by essentially holding it for ransom.
Scenario 3: you receive a renewal notice/invoice from a company that looks like a domain name registrar.
In some instances, the letter or email is not a renewal, but is actually selling a new (but very similar looking) domain name (e.g. .com rather than .com.au). The targeted victim then pays the invoice without realising that it is not in their current domain.
Should you ignore the emails?
Some domain name conflicts are legitimate, however, please proceed with caution.
Often, scam emails come from foreign jurisdictions, where you do not have country-level domain names registered and where you may not have any trade mark protection at all.
We generally advise our clients that these emails are scams, and the best course of action is to ignore the emails.
What can you do to avoid scams?
- Do not pay any invoices without confirming that it has come from your registrar. Only the domain registrar that your domain name is currently registered with will send you a legitimate renewal notice.
- Be vigilant: inform all staff about these scams as busy staff may mistakenly pay an invoice.
- Take steps to ensure that your brand/s are properly protected through trade mark registrations in the appropriate jurisdictions and through adequate domain name registrations.
- Report scammers to the relevant organisation in your country, for example, in Australia contact the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) via the Scamwatchreport a scam page.
If you are unsure whether an email relating to your brand, trade mark or domain name is legitimate, please check with your trade mark attorney – the easiest way to do this is to forward a copy of the suspicious correspondence directly.